Ida in the Middle
A gorgeously written book about a young Palestinian American who finds her voice and identity.
Genre: Upper Middle Grade/Lower YA
-some magical realism elements: olives cause time travel
Author:Nora Lester Murad
Publisher: Crocodile Books/ Interlink
This beautiful hardcover (the book truly is absolutely gorgeous and I just cant stop staring at it!) tells the story of Ida- a young 13 year old Palestinian American daughter of immigrants. Bullied out of her school due to being Palestinian, Ida struggles to fit in.
But one day, when she eats special olives, she is transported to a new type of multiverse where Ida’s family is still in Palestine.
And by going back and forth, Ida realizes who she wants to be and what her passion in life is.
This gorgeous book truly transported me to Palestine!! The rich descriptions helped me feel grounded in the setting, and I almost felt like I could taste the crackling olives, listen to the adhan of the Mosques, and walk the streets of Palestine. Tbh- as a Syrian myself, I found many parallels with life in Damascus to life in Jerusalem, and it made me fall in love with the book even more.
Juxtaposed with the beauty of the land and the liveliness of the family and community around Ida is the harsh reality of Israeli occupation. The author does not minimize it, she portrays it in the voice of a teenager quite honestly, and her emotional scenes showing Ida helping a young boy and trying to figure out how to save her village were heart-wrenching and emotional.
I also appreciated how nuanced the book was. The occupation is clearly presented as apartheid and wrong, but there is no antisemitism. The author mentions her own Jewish background in the author’s note, the book states that there are Jews who support Palestinian rights and Ida sympathizes with Jews who immigrated to America to escape persecution.
I really liked how this book was written- the layers of searching for identity, holding onto your homeland, resisting occupation, and the encouragement for the reader to practice BDS and raise their voices for justice.
Definitely a must read and a book I can see be adapted in curriculums for middle schools.
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